Best 10x Binoculars for Birding & Safaris under 1000 $/£/€

This BBR Patreon supporter question comes from Myriam who is looking to upgrade on her exiting binoculars to get a high-end set to give her better quality and more detailed views of birds as well as all the wildlife whilst on safari in Africa. I have added her question and my reply as a blog post here on BBR as I feel the information could be of use to many others as well:

Question

I am looking for a new pair of binoculars, as I have felt disappointed with my Vanguard ED8x24.

I did some searching online, my budget is between £600 and £1000.

I am pretty clear I want more magnification than x8 so think x10 or x12 with as wide a field of vision as possible.

I narrowed the list down to Kite Optics Lynx HD+ 10x50, GPO Passion HD 10x42, Zeiss Terra ED10x42, Leica Trinovid HD 10x42 but also wondered if I ought to consider stabilised ones (such as the Kite APC Binoculars).

I mostly use them for a bit of birding but also for safaris when in Africa where I go regularly.

Answer

Hello Myriam,
Firstly, many thanks for your support on Patreon, it really means a lot and genuinely helps support the continuation of the BBR website and YouTube channel going forward. 

10x Binoculars For Birding

Whilst a lower magnification like 8x is the more common for general birding (mostly due to the wider field of view), a 10x binocular can make a good option where you want or need to get a more detailed view.

Thus something like a 10x42 or 10x50 can be a good idea when birding in wide-open spaces or at longer distances like you would find around a lake, at the coast, or in open fields or savannah.

However, you just have to accept that you will sacrifice a little in terms of the width of view, image stability, and depending on the size objective lenses, perhaps also a little in terms of the low light performance.

I have actually written an article on using 10x42 binoculars for birding where I go through all the benefits and downsides in detail, so won’t repeat myself here.

Besides, from your question, I can see that you have already decided you want more power, and the fact that you will also be using your binoculars on safari, which often involves longer viewing distances and larger, slower-moving animals than most birds, means a 10x or even a 12x binocular could be a good idea.

Your Shortlist

You have a healthy budget and I really like the look of the instruments that you have already shortlisted. All of them are extremely capable instruments and I am sure you will find a noticeable difference going from the mid-level Vanguard ED to any of these, so the good news is that I think whichever you choose, you will be very happy with.

However, let’s see if we can work out which pair would be best for your particular needs and preferences, and so as almost always, when deciding between a number of binoculars on a shortlist (see How to Choose Between Binoculars), I will first draw up a table to make it easier to compare their main features and specifications:

As you can see in the table above I have included all the binoculars on your shortlist as well as added a few others. Some are alternate options which I think you may wish to consider, but also a few that are there just for comparison and to put some aspects into better perspective.

10x42 vs 10x50 Binoculars

In the article and video linked to in the heading above, I go through all the main differences between these two configurations, which if you have not seen it, or are unsure, I would suggest taking a look at, but in a nutshell, the main aspects that we are concerned with would be that with a 10x50 you gain more light gathering ability, a larger exit pupil and thus a better low light performance, but at the expense of size, weight, increased cost. They also often have a narrower field of view than a 10x42.

It depends on how you travel and I will leave it up to you, but for travelling with and taking on safari, I usually find that I prefer to keep my binocular as small and lightweight as possible without sacrificing too much in terms of low light performance. So unless you really need an excellent low light ability, I personally would probably choose the 42mm version over a 50mm one for taking on safari, but as I say, you may be willing to carry more to get that improved performance at dawn / dusk when you will most like be viewing wildlife more often in the bush.

Zeiss Terra ED 10x42

This Zeiss is the least expensive instrument on your list (it is not often that you can say that!), they make for an interesting choice.

They are relatively small, lightweight, have a good minimum focus distance, and decent optics. However whilst not bad, their field of view (FOV) is narrower than most of the others on the list (which you mentioned was important to you) and they also have quite a small amount of eye-relief. if you wear glasses, this will certainly be something to be wary of.

Also if you compare them to the more expensive Zeiss Conquest HD 10x42 and you can see that they have swapped the Magnesium chassis for a Polycarbonate one and I am sure there are some other concessions as well but do not go into detail as to what optics they use. So for example it is somewhat strange that Zeissdo not mention what mirror coatings are used. If it is dielectric, most companies are eager to highlight the fact.

So whilst I am in no doubt that they are a very good instrument, I personally think you are paying a lot for the name with these and so in terms, the actual components used and likely performance would put them on a level with the best instruments on the low price tier – so something like the Hawke Frontier ED X Binoculars for example which costs around  $349 / £389.

Thus if it was me and I wanted to go with Zeiss, I would try and stretch the budget a little to get the Zeiss Conquest HD 10x42 which looks to be a far better instrument, has a wider view, longer eye-relief and you can be sure they are using the best optics possible.

GPO Passion HD 10x42 Binoculars

The current winners of the award for the best binoculars under $1000 / £1000 that I have hands-on tested, at this price range, in my experience these really are tough to equal never mind beat:

Strengths

  • Eye-Relief: At 17mm, this GPO Passion has ample eye-relief, much more than most 10x42 binoculars and amongst the longest on this list, making these an ideal choice of 10x42 binocular should you want or need to wear glasses. Whilst not as important if you don’t wear glasses, it is always nice to have lot’s of eye-relief to play with to make sure you can achieve the entire field of view without black rings forming on the edges.
  • Accessories: Excellent quality semi-rigid carry case and the neck strap is one of the most comfortable that I have ever used, it is just a pity it does not have quick release clips on it.
  • Image Quality: Is as good as it gets for a 10x42 binocular in my experience
  • Price: I know that for you price is not the most important consideration, but I do feel that that it is important to mention that these offer extremely good value for money at this high-end level of the market and is certainly one of their strengths when compared to the others on this list
Weaknesses
  • Weight: Whilst not as pronounced as the Vortex Razor UHD, these GPO Passion HD’s are on the heavier side when compared to the majority of 42mm binoculars.
  • Focus Wheel: Absolutely no issue with the actual focusing mechanism, but the plastic face plate on them does not quite match the quality of the rest of the instrument
Buy & Compare Prices: GPO Passion Binoculars

Kite Lynx HD+ 10x42

Whilst I really do like the 10x50 Kite Lynx HD+ that you included on your list, I would like to suggest the 10x42 version as an alternative as I feel it looks to be even better.

They cost less, weigh less, are smaller, have an EXTREMELY wide field of view for a 10x binocular, very long eye-relief, and excellent quality optics, and I am certain that just like the 10x50 Lynx HD + that I tested and reviewed, they will deliver an exception quality image.

So as I have already discussed unless you specifically need the extra low-light performance that the larger 50mm lenses will provide, I would opt for this version instead.

Indeed the only areas where they lack in comparison to the more expensive binoculars like the GPO’s and the Leica’s is in some small details like not having a lockable diopter ring, and the level of included accessories does not quite match that of the more expensive instruments.

I also suspect that they have a polycarbonate chassis and not a magnesium one, although I am not 100% sure on this – anyway, this is not necessarily a bad thing, and whilst technically not as robust, they are usually more lightweight.

For your intended use, the ultra-wide view and relatively small and lightweight body make these look ideal to me for you and on top of this they come in well under your maximum £1000 budget.

Buy & Compare Prices: GPO Passion Binoculars

Leica Trinovid HD 10x42 Binoculars

The Leica Trinovid HD binoculars do look excellent and it is a shame that apart from a few occasions at trade fairs and in-store, I have yet to fully test a pair as I am sure they would do extremely well.

Compared to the 10x42 GPO Passion HD, they are smaller and more lightweight, but have less eye-relief – so depending on your needs and preferences, these may factor into your decision making.

Strengths

  • Size and Weight: For a high-end instrument with a metal chassis (aluminium in this case), their low weight and relatively small dimensions are impressive. important is this is a consideration of yours.
  • Close Focus: Whilst not quite as good as the Vortex, I consider anything under 6ft as excellent for a full-size binocular.
  • Price? Potentially these do seem like excellent value, but as they don’t reveal many details like the level of optics used in detail I cannot be 100% sure.

Weaknesses

  • Eye-Relief: As with the Zeiss Terra, but not as bad, the 15mm of eye relief may not be sufficient should you need or like to use glasses whilst using your binoculars. I usually find that with my shape of face and glasses that I test with that it is at around 16mm where I am able to fully twist down the eye-cups and achieve the full field of view without black rings on the edges. However, If you don’t wear glasses, then this will most likely not be an issue at all. For more: How To Use Binoculars With Glasses: Eye-relief & Eye-cups Explained.

Accessories: I do like the look of Leica’s new “Adventure Strap” as from the images and video I have seen of it, it reminds me of the LockDown Binocular Harness from S4Gear which is one of my all-time favorite binocular carrying systems and thus would certainly be a strength. However, unlike the Vortex that comes with a full bino harness included, I think this is an optional accessory (this is what it states on Leica’s website) although on some websites it says that it is included?! The marketing makes it look like it is included, but once you delve deeper, I think you may discover it is not, but I am still not 100% sure! I feel this is a little sneaky and if it is not included, it should not be included in the marketing of the binocular, if it is included then you can add it as a strength, but only if a bino harness is something that you are interested in.

Buy & Compare Prices: Leica Trinovid HD Binoculars

12x42 Image Stabilized Binoculars

I have included the details of the Kite APC 12x42 IS binoculars and whilst have not tested them, I have reviewed the more powerful 16x42 version (see my Kite APC 16x42 Image Stabilised Binoculars Review) and so have a good understanding of most of its features and function.

In this case, with these and other similar powerful image stabilized binoculars, you are gaining image stability at the cost of weight and once again because of the smaller exit pupil, low light performance. The higher power also means that you get a even more narrow field of view, which for uses like birding at close range is not ideal.

Then there is also the cost of the electronics. So it often the case that the level of optics on non-IS binoculars will be of better quality than that of IS binoculars at the same price point.

So whilst IS binoculars do have their many uses and are advantageous in certain situations I would suggest some of the other options on your list would make a better choice. That is unless you are specifically needing more image stability and are mostly looking at wildlife and birds at longer ranges and in reasonably good light conditions.

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